Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Cleaning the Fleece....stinkin' fleece!

And I mean STINK--IEEEE!
In this post I tell my personal experience but also give info on how to clean fleece. Here are some resources I found useful: The Joy of Handspinning, Ask the Bellwether, and two Yahoo groups: Spin-List and Spindlers. To look at the photos with more detail just click on them.

Here it is in the backyard on a clean sheet before cleaning. I laid it out, best I could, just to get a look at it and see what I was up against. It was so dirty, full of hay and dust and who-knows-what-else which is all called "VM" - vegetable matter. The part I am picking up here is from the shoulders. You will notice that the back end looks cleaner and it is. I was surprised. I did have to pull of the poopie tuffs [which really isn't that bad because it is dry. I learned that these are called "tags"]. The shoulders have a lot of hay bits in them because they like to hang out with the horses. They stand under the horses' heads so while the horses are eating they drop hay bits on their back. The hay gets embedded all the way to the skin. When you pick the dirtiest parts off the fleece it is called "skirting " All this lingo is new to me.

I like this quote from
Amelia's blog [where I got a lot of good info]: "If you're lucky, the fleece is still sheep-shaped"........hahaha. If you have amateurs doing the shearing you're lucky to have a fleece that is still connected in places. I had trouble laying it out so the top was...on top. It was twisted in places. I felt lucky I could recognize the shoulders from the butt.
Here is what half of the fleece looked like before washing. It is in a Rubbermaid tub. It wasn't until I crammed it into my washing machine I realize what a gross job this was going to be. I first filled my washing machine with hot water [you need the hottest you can get. The hot water melts the lanolin, called the "grease", so there is no point to letting the fleece soak until the water cools off.] I put in a cap full of laundry soap. Next time I'll just use Joy or Dawn, cheaper. Then slowly pressed in half the fleece. NOTE: this is way to much to wash at once. More on that latter. Notice the dirt caught in the grooves of the tub. If I could just shake it all out. The moment the fleece hit the water my basement filled with the smell of barn...ya...crap #5. I just did the unthinkable. I brought the farm into my home....my city life. It was disgusting. I got nervous.

Here it is after washing it twice and rinsing it twice. To wash it, leave the fleece in the hot water for 30-45 min. with the lid of the washing machine closed. MAKE SURE THE MACHINE IS TURNED OFF. YOU DO NOT WANT TO AGITATE THE FLEECE AT ANY TIME. Turn on the spin cycle to get most of the water out. Take the fleece out. Fill the machine again with hot water and wash again. Then repeat twice without soap to rinse. It might seem unfair to have taken the 'before' shot inside and the 'after' shot outside but it does help accent the difference in colour. This IS whiter but it is still full of VM! "Crap"!

So I decided to try again. I had spread the fleece out on a drying rack covered with a sheet. I thought maybe if I pull the fleece apart a little the dirt
would have a better chance of escaping.

So here I am, having so much fun! I took manageable pieces, shook them, pulled them, picked out stuff and shook them again. yay! At least it's nice outside.

I tried an experiment. I put some in a
colander and washed it in the kitchen sink. I took about 1/4 of the fleece and put it back in the washing machine. The smell was better but still yukky! The results: The bit in the sink came out looking the same as what was in the machine. The machine cleans a larger amount so I'll stick to the machine method.

The Results So Far: Here are the 3 stages side-by-side. On the left the bit that was washed, rinsed, picked and pulled, washed, rinsed again. In the middle the washed, rinsed, picked and pulled bit. On the right a piece of the half that hasn't been touched. I was surprised at the difference between the first two. It wasn't until I put them beside each other that I saw how much cleaner the fleece became with the extra washing.


Anonymous said...

Oh, you have really done your homework on this woolcleaning business! I just picked up my wool this week, in five feedbags. I do not feel encouraged by the amount of work. It may stay in the garage a couple of weeks before I am brave like you.

Nancy said...

yowza, how interesting!!
Thanks for sharing and writing that up, Kellie...had much fun reading it!

Kellie said...

Hey Nancy: do you have a blog? I can't get access to your profile to see. If you do I would like to visit it. Thanks for the comment. It encourages me to know people are reading after I put so much time typing it up.

Ann-Marie said...

hi there
i found your profile on Ravelry.
(fellow Canadian, fellow Christian)
and then i saw this fleece post--i am washing my first fleece RIGHT NOW.
wow, thanks for the info!!!


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